A Quick Thought On Your 2021 Calendar

2021 looks promising, although it did start off a little bumpy.  Since we’ll soon be getting back to life that includes more events and interactions with others, it’s important to remember that we are the ones who decide what events we allow on our calendars.

When you’re considering scheduling an event, make sure you’re not doing it out of a false sense of obligation, or because you feel you can’t say, “No” to something you really have no interest in doing. 

I would argue that our time is more valuable than money, because we can always get more money.  That’s is something we can’t do with time.  The limit on a day is 24 hours, we can’t get more.  The only choice we have is how we’ll spend the finite amount of time we’ve been given.  Therefore, we need to make sure that it is our priorities that fill our calendars in 2021, not someone elses.

Cast Your Gaze Beyond Today

With COIVD-related restrictions and choices an omnipresent reality of the 2020 holiday season, it’s easy to become frustrated by how abnormal everything is this year.  While it’s true that things look different this year, I want to encourage you that this is not how Christmas, or any other holiday, will look forever more.  Remember that this current state is indeed temporary.  Before we know it, we will be celebrating holidays with family and friends again.

My pastor signs all his emails with a phrase that I think is especially fitting for this year, “Believing the best is yet to come”.    I think that true.  We only have to be willing to cast our gaze beyond what’s happening today.

Collectively Giving Our Best

I’m currently reading a book about the SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft.  It was developed in the 60s and was way ahead of its time, with regards to engineering and performance.  This plane could travel at altitudes of 80,000 feet with a speed greater than Mach 3 (3X the speed of sound).  Were it in service today, it would still be ahead of it’s time and considered futuristic. 

As I was reading a chapter last night about the people involved in the design stage of the SR-71, I was impressed how all these people came together and gave the best of their abilities to bring this aircraft from an idea to a reality.  The technology to build an SR-71 didn’t exist, so they had to figure it out as they went.  When you consider all the obstacles, it’s an amazing feat that the SR-71 became a reality.  

Imagine if the members of this group didn’t give the best they were capable of.  Suppose people on the team just gave minimal effort that was far below their intellectual capacity.  If that were the case, the SR-71 would have fallen far short of the requirements presented to the team.  Even more likely, this project would have been canceled and considered an impossible feat, if not an outright failure.  The difference was the people on the team collectively gave their best.

While we my not be part of a team designing supersonic reconnaissance aircraft, we are all a part of some team where we have an opportunity to give our best effort.  That team may consist of a family, a group of co-workers, a band, a sports team, or any other group of people brought together to achieve a common goal.  Regardless of the type of team we’re on, the members of the team counting on us to give our best.  In my opinion, if we’re willing to be on a team, we should also be willing to bring the best effort we’re capable of.

So why should we bother to bring our best effort?  There a several good answers to this question, but for me, there is one reason that stands above all others.  During the Christmas season, I’m again reminded that God gave His best for me in his son Jesus.  Out of gratitude, how could I offer anything less than my best back to Him?

Time Travel

“But look at you, with the gift of memory. You can time travel to the good stuff just by closing your eyes & breathing.”  Lin-Manuel Miranda – “Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You”

I’m amazed at the number of memories each of us can carry between our ears.  What’s more amazing, is how quickly we can recall our favorite memories.  Within nanoseconds, we can be transported to an event, a person, or a place in time.  Lin-Manuel is right, our memories are indeed a form of time travel. 

I think the recalling of memories is best done in the in the company of others with the same shared experience.  To time travel with others via fond memories is a great blessing.  The only thing more pleasing than recalling fond memories, is creating what will become fond memories with others.

Let’s make sure that as we’re traveling through life, were constantly doing both: recalling our fondest memories in the company of others, and creating some new ones as well.

When the Tide Comes In

Last week my wife and I spent some time at the beach in Bandon Oregon.  The weather was unseasonably sunny warm for the Oregon coast in late November.  It was beautiful!

While in Bandon, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach.  One thing to be mindful of at the beach is the tide.  When the tide is out, there is so much to see and so much more beach available to walk on.  However, when the tide comes in, what’s available to explore and the volume of beach to walk on is significantly diminished.  We experienced that during high tide, when parts of the shoreline we walked during low tide were no longer accessible once the tide came in. Not to worry.  We simply looked at our options, adjusted our high-tide walk and had a great time.

Our experience with the tides in Bandon made me think how we often have high tides in our lives; when things change and what was once a normal part of our life is no longer available.  Sometimes these high tides are expected.  Other times they’re not.  Regardless, we get to choose how we respond to them. We can be angry and complain about what’s not available, or we can look with gratitude at what we still have available to us, make adjustments, and move forward.

That’s great news, because even when the tide comes in (as my recent walk on the beach reminded me) there are still plenty of options available to us.  We just need to see them.

Taking Inventory Our Habits

“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken.” Warren Buffett

Habits are fascinating, because despite the fact that they are small, they can be extremely powerful.  Their power comes from the compounding effect they have when done over long periods of time.

Some habits taken conscious effort to do, like deciding to get up every morning and go to the gym.  Yet other habits are so easy to fall into, that they almost become an automatic part of our daily life.  Things like drinking several sodas or going out for fast food on a daily basis.  (There are a zillion others, but those are the first 2 that came to mind.) These habits are rewarding in the moment, and thus easy to form.  And while an occasional soda or trip to McDonald’s isn’t terrible, the impact of these habits done continuously over years, if not decades, can have severe negative consequences.

For this reason, I think it’s important to regularly determine whether we’ve developed any habits that have the potential to plant land mines for our future selves.  We should ask ourselves:

  • Are the habits we’re engaged in healthy or destructive? 
  • Are they leading to a good outcome or a potentially dangerous one? 
  • Are there habits we should stop doing?
  • Are there habits we need to cultivate?

We all want good outcomes in our lives, but as we know, they don’t just happen.  They require action from us, as well as reflection, to determine if our habits will take us where we want to go.

With 2021 approaching, now would be a good time to take an inventory of the habits we’ve acquired.  It might be time to say, “Good-bye” to some potentially destructive ones we’ve been heretofore traveling with.  It may also be time to say, “Hello” to some new productive habits and invite them to join us on our journey forward.

I See That

Before work Monday morning, I took a sunny yet cool Autumn walk through the neighborhood.  At one point I heard what sounded like rain.  However, a clear sky quickly ruled rain out as a source of the sound.  As I kept walking, the noise grew louder until I realized the sound was being created by a flood of leaves continuously falling from several reddish-orange trees lining the street.

I stood under one of the trees for several minutes and just watched and listened.  It was such a unique experience.  Sure, I’ve often heard wind blowing through Autumn leaves that were still in the trees, but I’ve never seen falling leaves that sound so much like steady rain.  It was a beautiful scene.  I’m glad I noticed it.

I like to be on the lookout for things like that.  To be curious about and eager to notice something so unexpectedly beautiful.  When I do encounter such a scene, I like to say out loud, “I see that!” It’s my way of letting God know that I see His creativity and how much I appreciate it.

Small Things Add Up

Last Thursday was such a good day!  There wasn’t one specific thing that made it good, but rather there were a number of smaller things that all added up to a great day.

Some of the small things during that day were:

  • A sunny Autumn sky
  • Red, orange, and yellow leaves in the trees
  • A couple productive collaboration sessions with colleagues
  • A nice walk through the neighborhood with my wife
  • Getting several tasks completed at work

Each one of these things represented a small thread that were all stitched together to create one great day. 

I was reminded that something doesn’t have to be big or extravagant to be great.  Great things are often the result of many smaller things taken together or even by themselves.  Any one of the experiences listed above would have made for a good day.  They effect they had together made for a day that was indeed great.

I’m glad I didn’t fail to notice it.

The Best You’re Capable Of

Whenever time or effort is required of me, either voluntarily, for work, or just for fun, I think it’s important to give the best effort I’m capable of within the given conditions.  I’m not a big fan of mailing it in.

Whether it’s carving a turkey at Thanksgiving, giving a presentation, or anything in between, why would we want to give anything less than our bet effort?  The effort we give our tasks sets the tone for how we approach life.  When we decide to offer our best, we are deciding that we want to show up and engage life.  We expect more than the minimum daily requirements, from life as well as from ourselves.

Besides, when we offer our best to the world, we are encouraging others to do the same.

Helping Those Behind You

This week, my team at work was interviewing for a senior-level data analyst member.  It’s pretty easy to tell whether someone has the technical skills to do the job based on the sample of the work they bring to the interview, as well as how they describe the work experience they’ve acquired throughout their career.  We had one candidate form a different department in our organization that is brand new in the field, with very little experience, but they sure stood out.

While it was obvious that this candidate didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I was impressed by the steps they had taken, and are scheduled to take, in order to educate themselves about data analysis.  At one point during the interview, they showed us a sample of a coding exercise they had done in school, and while, by their own admission, it was very basic, it is where we all start… at the very beginning. 

This person is excited to be on the journey and eager to learn about data analysis.  Toward the end of the interview, they humbly mentioned that they would be interested in any guidance, assistance, or mentoring anyone on the team would be willing to provide.  The team mentioned that they would be eager to offer any help they could.

After the interview was over, I had a career flashback.  In this candidate, I saw myself at the start of my career.  I remember being new to the filed, proud of the first basic code I had just written, while at the same time knowing that I had so much more to learn.  Fortunately, I still feel that way.

I was reminded of the experienced people who helped me grow my knowledge and gain the experience I lacked.  People like Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit.  These kind folks were extremely generous with their time, listening to my questions and helping me understand new and often confusing concepts.  They were willing to take the time to invest in someone who didn’t yet have much to offer, but who was eager to learn.  I am grateful for their investment in me.

Flash back to the present.  Ever since that interview, I’ve been thinking how quickly the time went from when I was someone with no skills, but a strong willingness to learn, to someone who can actually reach back and help someone coming up behind me.  I can think of no better way to honor Edwin, Chuck, Joel, and Prasenjit’s investment in me than reaching back and offering a hand to this person behind me.